Sunday, March 24, 2024

Speaking of Which

I was struck by this meme: "If Israelis stop fighting there will be peace. If Palestinians stop fighting there will be no more Palestinians." The first line is certainly true. This latest war has been so devastating that it's hard to imagine any fight left -- at least of the sort that would strike out at Israelis beyond their wall. The other obvious point is that there's no risk in trying. If Hamas does attack again, Israel can always strike back, and that reaction will be better understood than the systematic, genocidal war Israel is waging.

The second is less obvious, depending on what you mean by "stop fighting." Hamas has never had the capability of fighting Israel like Israel fights Gaza. Hamas has no air force, no navy, no submarines, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no anti-aircraft or anti-missile defenses, no drones. Their rockets are small and unguided, and have never produced more than accidental damage. Aside from the Oct. 7 jailbreak, the only way an Israeli gets hurt is by entering Gaza, and even then the ratio of Palestinian-to-Israeli casualties is 50-to-1 or more. That's not much of a fight.

However, the second line could be rewritten in terms that both sides will agree with, if not agree on: "Palestinians will [only] stop fighting when there are no more Palestinians." An army may sensibly surrender to a more imposing power, but this will only happen if one has hope of surviving and eventually recovering from surrender. Germany and Japan surrendered to the US to end WWII, but only because they believed that they would be given a chance to return to running their own lives. (See John Dower's Embracing Defeat for more on how Japan dealt with this. Japan is a better example than Germany, because its government was still intact when it surrendered, whereas Germany's was in tatters after Hitler's suicide.) A number of American Indian tribes surrendered with similar hopes, even though the US had given them little reason for such hope.

But Israel's current demands for ceasefire terms, following the genocidal threats of Israel's leaders, and the genocidal methodology they've practiced in this war, offer little or no hope to any Palestinian that surrender is anything but suicide. Israelis demand absolute servility, but know that they'll never get everyone to submit, that there will always be resistance of some sort, and as such their security will always be at risk. This presents them with an existential dilemma, to which there are only three solutions: equal rights, separation, or annihilation.

They have long refused to consider equal rights. (Lots of reasons we needn't consider here, like racism and demography.) They've considered separation, at least within certain bounds, but it's naturally a formula for war, so they've insisted on being the dominant power, both by building up a huge military advantage and by preventing Palestinians from ever developing their own popular leadership. But the solution they've always craved was annihilation. The problem there has been finding a time when they could get away with it. Oct. 7 was the excuse they were waiting for, dramatic enough that few of their allies grasped immediately how they had goaded Hamas into action.

Even so, Israel has always had a numbers problem. America was able to reduce its native population to levels where they became politically and economically irrelevant, after which annihilation no longer mattered, and some reconciliation was possible. But for Israel, there were always too many Palestinians, too close by, too economically developed and culturally sophisticated. For just these reasons, colonizers eventually gave up on Algeria and South Africa, but only after extraordinary brutality. Israel is the last to believe they're strong enough to beat down any and all resistance. And that's really because they have few if any scruples against killing every last Palestinian.

And don't for a moment think that Palestinians don't understand this. They've lived through it for decades, and while often beaten down, often severely, they've survived to resist again. They'll survive this, too, and will continue to resist, as peacefully as Israel will allow, or as violently as they can muster.

Looking further down my twitter feed:

From Rami Jarrah: Picture of an adult Palestinian male seated on a couch, surrounded 14 children (a couple into their teens). Text: "Nobody in this photo is alive. Israel's right to self defence."

From Kayla Bennett: Chart image. Text: "One of the most horrifying graphics ever." I looked for an article including the chart, and came up with:

From Ryan Heuser: A link to the website for The New York War Crimes, reporting on propaganda published by The New York Times (motto: "All the Consent That's Fit to Manufacture"). I haven't figured out yet where the illustrations come from.

From Yousef Munayer retweeted Heuser, adding: "A new poll found that even though some 30,000 more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis since October, half of Americans didn't know which side has lost more lives. This has a lot to do with it."

From Etan Nechin retweeted Chris Olley: "[Pennsylvania]'s richest person Jeff Yass is buying Truth Social for $3 Billion so Trump can pay off his $450 Million judgment in return for Trump doing a 180 on his Tiktok and China stance to preserve Yass's $30 Billion-with-a-B stake in Tiktok. We call this oligarchy' when it's elsewhere." Nechin adds: "Notably, Jeff Yass was the main financier of Kohelet Forum, the shadowy organization behind Israel's attempted judicial coup that was championed by the settler far right. These oligarchs care little for democracy, only market interests." The Wikipedia page for Yass is here, which documents all this and more.

From Daniel Denvir: "Truth Social has roughly twice the monthly app users as my niche left-wing intellectual podcast has monthly downloads. The Dig's own healthy but rather modest financial situation suggests to me that this company is not worth nearly $6 billion."

From Paul Krugman: "So, did the ACA bend the cost curve? Call it coincidence, but excess cost growth -- health spending growing faster than GDP -- basically ended when it passed." See chart:

I'm reminded that Switzerland long had the world's second most expensive health care system, with costs increasing in tandem with US costs, until they adopted a universal non-profit insurance scheme. While this was still much more expensive than systems in UK, Germany, and France, it halted the increase, while US costs continue to rise. ACA hasn't worked as well as Switzerland's system -- by design, it isn't universal, and still allows (and sometimes encourages) profit-seeking -- but it was a step in the right direction.

Initial count: 227 links, 9,825 words. Not really finished when posted late Sunday night, so some Monday updates have been added. While sections are marked (like this), minor edits (like the last paragraph above) are not. (Seems like there should be a finer-grained way to do this, but I haven't figured one out yet.

Updated count [03-25]: 259 links, 11,559 words.

Several breaking stories on Monday [03-25] are not reported or reacted to below, but should be significant next week: Here's the "heads up":

  • Luisa Loveluck/Karen DeYoung/Missy Ryan/Michael Birnbaum: [03-25] Netanyahu cancels delegation after US does not block UN cease-fire call: The US, for the first time since Israel attacked Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks, abstained from and didn't veto a cease-fire resolution, allowing it to pass 14-0. This is the first concrete step that the Biden administration is developing a conscience over Israel's genocide. A stronger signal would have been to vote for the resolution. Stronger still would be to withhold aid (especially munitions) until the cease-fire has been implemented (at which point Israel won't need the arms). So Biden still has a long ways to go, but at least he has found a new direction. Next step will be to show Netanyahu that his tantrum is for naught, and that his conceit that he actually runs Washington -- which, by the way, is a big part of his political capital in Israel -- is no longer true.

    PS: Yousef Munayyer tweeted after this: "The US abstention at the UNSC today as well as Netanyahu's reaction to it should be seen as each leader's attempt to manage domestic audiences. What matters is Biden signed off on $4billion more in weapons for Israel to further the genocide. Keep your eye on the ball."

  • Mark Berman/Jonathan O'Connell/Shayna Jacobs: [03-25] Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million: This postpones foreclosure on Trump properties, for ten days at least (the time allowed to post the bond).

  • Shayna Jacobs/Devlin Barrett: [03-25] NY judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump's historic hush money case.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: After Super Tuesday, this is turning into a category with not much happening, or at least not much people are bothering to write against. March 19 saw presidential primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio. Biden's been winning the Democratic side by a bit over 80%, which isn't great for an incumbent, but also isn't disastrous. Trump wins as easily, but rarely hits 80% -- also not great considering no one is actively running against him. (In Arizona, the figures were 89.3% Biden, 78.8% Trump; in Florida, 81.2% Trump; in Illinois, 91.5% Biden, 80.6% Trump; in Kansas 83.8% Biden, 75.5% Trump; in Ohio, 87.1% Biden, 79.2% Trump; in Louisiana, 86.1% Biden, 89.8% Trump. Missouri had a caucus, where Trump got 100% of 924 votes.

  • Paul Krugman: [03-21] What's the matter with Ohio?

  • Nia Prater: [03-22] The Republican Party is too embarrassing for George Santos: So he's going to run as an independent in Nick LaLota's (R-NY) House district. Most people run as independents because they think they are, but the big advantage for Santos is that he can keep his campaign finance scam going all the way to November, instead of getting wiped out in the primary. So pretty much the same reason Bob Menendez is running as an independent to keep his Senate seat in New Jersey.

Trump, and other Republicans: Salon picks up some substantial pieces, but they also do a lot of stuff that basically amounts to Trump trolling. I usually skip past them, but this week they especially spoke to me, so quite a few got crammed in here this week. I can also give you some author indexes, in case you want to dig deeper (just scanning the titles is often a hoot):

This week's links on all things Republican (the Trumpier the better, but the real evil lies in the billionaire-funded think tanks):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [03-19] Voters of color are shifting right. Are Democrats doomed?

  • Hannah Story Brown: [03-25] Tim Ryan's natural gas advocacy makes a mockery of public service: Ex-Representative (D-OH), ran for Senate and lost, now "leveraging his prior career for a group backed by fossil fuel and petrochemical players." Why do you suppose he couldn't convince voters he'd serve them better than a Republican?

  • Gail C Christopher: [03-22] Stop ageism: A call for action: "It's one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice, and it needs to come to an end in society and this presidential campaign." Really, you think this is going to work? Or even help? Believe me, I know it happens, often in cases where it is inappropriate, but unlike many prejudices, there is also something substantive at root here, and finding the right combination of respect and care and understanding in each distinct case is going to take some work, and not just a bumper sticker slogan.

  • Ryan Cooper: [03-11] Democrats need a party publication: "The New York Times is not going to get Biden's campaign message before voters." Pull quote: "There is a giant right-wing propaganda apparatus blasting Republican messaging into tens of millions of homes every day, which Democrats do not have." Also: "You could do quite a lot of journalism for a tiny, tiny fraction of what the Democrats are going to spend on the 2024 campaign." I figured the line about the New York Times was some kind of joke, but here's the unfunny part:

    A recent speech from New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger makes clear that he -- perhaps unsurprisingly for a scion of multigenerational inherited wealth -- is proud of his paper's ludicrously anti-Biden slant and virulent transphobia, and will keep doing it. If it's up to him, this campaign will center around Biden's age, while Trump's numerous extreme scandals and outright criminality -- as well as his own advanced age and dissolving brain -- will be carefully downplayed. If I were Biden and the Democrats, who implicitly elevate the Times as their counterpoint to Fox, I'd be looking to change that, and quick.

  • James Downie: [03-23] House Republicans just gave Biden the biggest possible gift: "When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans just can't help themselves." I could have filed this under Republicans, but didn't want this piece to get lost among this week's Trump scuzziness. Trump is a problem, but he's merely cosmetic compared to the deep Republican mindset, which remains set on destroying the institutions that at least minimally protect us from the most predatory practices of capitalism, supposedly in favor of an entrepreneurial utopia. I was pointed to this piece by an Astra Taylor tweet (link just vanished), possibly because the piece itself cites her The Age of Insecurity.

  • Robert Kuttner:

    • [03-18] Man of steel: "President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of US Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union."

    • [03-22] The promise of Biden's second term: "And the exemplary effects of his green jobs creation programs in his first term."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stephen Lezak: [03-22] Scientists just gave humanity an overdue reality check. The world will be better for it. This follows on [03-20] Geologists make it official: we're not in an 'anthropocene' epoch. For geologists, it's a fairly technical question, and given the ways geologists think about time, I'm not surprised that they don't see need for another division. The Holocene only starts with the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Age -- the fifth major glacial advance of the Pleistocene, itself an arguably premature designation. (The factors that drove ice ages during the period have are presumably still in place -- certainly the continents haven't moved much, nor has the earth orbit changed, or solar output -- but the atmosphere has been altered enough to make renascent glaciation very unlikely.) Humans started leaving their mark on the Earth's surface as the Holocene started some 11,700 years ago, so the whole epoch could have been named the Anthropocene. Perhaps that seemed presumptuous when first named, and maybe even now, but using 1952 as an convenient dividing line is simply arbitrary.

  • Delaney Nolan: The EPA is backing down from environmental justice cases nationwide.

  • Cassady Rosenblum: [03-23] Blocking Burning Man and vandalizing Van Gogh: Climate activists are done playing nice: This is indicative of what happens with those in power deny, dissemble, and ultimately fail at problems that have become overwhelmingly obvious. Those in power should see protests -- orderly of course, but also disruptive and destructive -- as symptoms of underlying issues that require their attention.

    But most often, they think they can get away with suppressing protests, which by aggravating the protesters while ignoring the problems only makes future protests more desperate, and dangerous. As noted here, "something desperate and defiant is stirring in the climate movement." Signs of escalating tactics are as easily measured as the increasing ppm of greenhouse gases. The tipping points of catastrophic inflections are harder to guess, but their odds are approaching inevitable, as we have observed stressed humans do many times before, in many comparable situations.

  • David Wallace-Wells: [03-20] When we see the climate more clearly, what will we do? There is not a satellite designed to locate methane leeks.

Business/economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

  • Connor Echols: [03-20] US 'prepared to deploy troops to Haiti if necessary. If Biden goes along with this, I dare say it would be political suicide. For Trump, as for most US presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson, Haiti is the quintessential "shithole country." Right-thinking Americans would bristle at the idea of doing anything to help there. Realistic Americans would realize that the US military is not capable of helping, and that its entrance would make matters worse. The left should be pushing back against Biden's warmaking on all fronts. And nobody wants another costly quagmire.

  • Sam Knight: [03-25] What have fourteen years of Conservative rule done to Britain? "Living standards have fallen. The country is exhausted by constant drama. But the UK can't move on from the Tories without facing up tot he damage that has occurred."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-13] WTO, RIP: "The annual World Trade Organization meeting came to an ignominious end last week with no 'progress' on major issues. That is a form of progress."

  • Emily Tamkin: Slovakia's presidential election is a warning to America: "What to see what the United States would look like under a reelected Trump?"

Other stories:

Laura Bult: [03-21] Why it's so hard for Americans to retire: "There's a reason so many of us don't have enough retirement savings." Video piece, but links to Teresa Ghilarducci's book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy. Probably good, but Astra Taylor covers the key point in her The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart.

Stephanie Burt: Lucy Sante and the solitude and solidarity of transitioning: "In her new memoir, I Heard Her Call My Name, Sante dissects her past in order to understand her future."

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy. Long piece from the print magazine. Seems like I should have noticed it before. Too much to get into just now.

Sarah Jones: The exvangelicals searching for political change. Self-evident neologism is from the book reviewed herein, The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church, by Sarah McCammon. Related here:

  • Carlene Bauer: [03-12] She trusted God and science. They both failed her. Review of Devout: A Memoir of Doubt, by Anna Gazmarian, "an author who grew up in the evangelical church recounts her struggle to find spiritual and psychological well-being after a mental health challenge."

Rich Juzwiak: [03-12] A biography of a feminist porn pioneer bares all: "In Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution, the historian Jane Kamensky presents a raw personal -- and cultural -- history." Another review:

Keren Landman: [03-20] Abortion influences everything: "By inhibiting drug development, economic growth, and military recruitment, as well as driving doctors away from the places they're needed most, bans almost certainly harm you -- yes, you."

Katie Moore: [03-17] When Kansas police kill people, the public often can't see bodycam footage. Here's why.

Marcus J Moore: [03-21] The visions of Alice Coltrane: "In the years after her husband John's death, the harpist discovered a sound all her own, a jazz rooted in acts of spirit and will." I'll say something about this in Music Week. Meanwhile:

Rick Perlstein: [03-20] 'Stay strapped or get clapped': "How the media misses the story of companies seeking profit by keeping traumatized veterans armed and enraged."

Andrew Prokop: [03-21] The political battle over Laken Riley's murder, explained: Riley was a 22-year-old student in Georgia who was murdered, allegedly by an "illegal immigrant," an event seized upon by right-wing agitators, like the guy who tweeted: "If only people went to the streets to demand change in the name of Laken Riley, like they did for George Floyd." Article provides more details. While the murders as isolated events were equivalent, the policy considerations are very different, starting with responsibility for enabling the killers, and regarding the more general context.

One not even mentioned here is the effect of the sanctions and isolation policy toward Venezuela -- mostly but not exclusively Trump's work -- and how that has driven many, including Riley's alleged killer, to migrate to the US. Prokop: "But reality is also more complicated than Trump's promises that he'll fix everything by getting tougher once he's president."

Brian Resnick: [03-22] The total solar eclipse is returning to the United States -- better than before: "This will be the last total solar eclipse over the contiguous United States for 21 years." I find myself with zero interest in looking up, much less traveling to do so, but family and friends in Arkansas are lobbying for visitors, and I know some people who are going. April 8 is the date.

Dylan Scott: [03-22] Kate Middleton's cancer diagnosis is part of a frightening global trend: "More and more young people are getting cancer." I have zero interest in her, or in any of "those ridiculous people" (John Oliver's apt turn of phrase), and so I've ignored dozens of pieces on them recently, but there's something more going on here. Every category of cancer they used is more common among ages 14-49 than it was in 1990. My wife swears it's environmental, and while I can think of statistical variations, I'm inclined to agree.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-22] Roaming Charges: L'état sans merci. "Willie Pye is dead and Georgia is back in the execution business." This introduces a long section on what passes for justice in America. Much more, of course. For more on Pye, see:

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: [03-20] The problematic past, present, and future of inequality studies: Interview with Branko Milanovic, whose lates book is Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War.

Dodai Stewart: [03-16] You're not being gaslit, says a new book. (Or are you?) Review of Kate Abramson: On Gaslighting. Demands precision of a phenomenon that is deliberately imprecise ("all kinds of interactions -- lying, guilt-tripping, manipulation"; "a multi-dimensional horror show"). Cites Harry G Frankfurt's On Bullshit (2005) as a "spiritual forebear."

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-21] The one idea that could save American democracy: Tied to the authors' new book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Also:

By the way, I just found a link to audio for Astra Taylor: [2023-11-17] The Age of Insecurity: 2023 CBC Massey Lectures, with five hour-long lectures corresponding to the book I just read, and recommend as highly as possible -- I'd go so far as to say that she's the smartest person writing on the left these days. I was pointed to the lectures by a daanis tweet: "I finally listened to @astradisastra Massey Lectures on my way to Boston, just mainlined them one after another straight into my brain, and added her language about precarity and insecurity into my own remarks about surviving together by becoming kin."

Maureen Tkacik: [03-11] 'Return what you stole and be a man with dignity': "Doctors didn't think it was possible to loathe the world's biggest health care profiter any more. Then came the hack that set half their bookkeeping systems on fire." About the ransomware outage at Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHealth ("the nation's fifth-largest company").

Bryan Walsh: [03-22] Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has been caught up in a gambling controversy. He won't be the last. One of the biggest changes in my lifetime has been the changed attitude toward gambling, which in my mother's day was a degenerative sin indulged by lowlifes, much to the profit of mobsters. Today the mobsters have turned into Republican billionaires -- hard to say whether that's a step up or down ethically -- and their rackets have moved out into the open. For a long time, the shame of the Black Sox kept the lid on sports gambling, but that's been totally blown open in the recent years. I hate it, which doesn't mean I want to try to ban it, but those involved are no better than criminals, and should be reminded of it as often as possible.

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